Skip to main content

Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

See other formats

percent from 1948 to 1960, and the rapid rates of decline in Taiwan and South Korea show that under present-day conditions a speedy fall in fertility rates is possible. Today's unprecedented rates of population growth make it urgently desirable. The drop in birth rates in Taiwan and South Korea also indicates that a high level of development is not a necessary condition for fertility decline. A condition that may be equally effective is a rapid rate of economic growth, which allows for social mobility, encourages rising aspirations among the people, and permits the allocation of sufficient resources for fertility control programs and for better communications leading to faster diffusion of information about family planning.
A possible objection is that these fertility ceilings might imply population decline or an undesirably slow rate of population growth in high-mortality nations with low population densities and that it would be unrealistic or unwarranted to expect these nations to endorse such a prospect through deliberate policy. The objection appears to us to have no practical relevance. The overwhelming evidence is that death rates can be brought down greatly and rapidly in low income, high fertility regions throughout the world, by a combination of socioeconomic and public health measures that are economically feasible.
An objection to proposed reductions in population growth rates made by some political leaders is that sheer numbers of people are a prerequisite, or at least an essential element, of political power internationally, especially for small nations. Such power considerations are often claimed to be associated with the achievement of social and economic objectives (such as a sufficiently large market for industrial products) or to override them as policy priorities when the two are in conflict.
There can be no effective rebuttal to those who would knowingly endure the socioeconomic burdens that arise from excessively growing populations in the hope that added numbers will contribute to national power. But the weight of relevant policy considerations seems to us to fall decisively in the opposite direction. First, few, if any, individual goals and certainly no national goals are ever absolute, or independent of the need for weighing priorities. Whatever the prospects for enhanced power or market through added numbers may be, the hoped for benefits must be judged in full awareness of the political, social, and economic costs of too rapid population growth. Second, modernity, not population size or growth, is the strategic determinant of a nation's political and economic status internationally.
A third objection, coming from almost the opposite end of the opinion spectrum is that any fertility target implying a positive rate of population growth is a false or deceptive policy prescription. A correct policy, according to proponents of this view, would aim at zero growth rates everywhere, the more so in the less developed nations since these have a much longer way to go from present vital rate levels and suffer much more severely the adverse